Text-based virtual worlds: an archaeological MOO

Who says immersive learning or virtual worlds have to be in 3D? Text-based worlds solve a lot of problems for the designer of a virtual world, since, as the old Infocom advertisement had it, your brain is the best graphics processor out there. From a few words, you can fill in the blanks, making the world as rich as you can imagine it. I mentioned the Like-a-Fishhook MOO in this post, but I didn’t explore it very much.

The Like-a-Fishhook MOO aims to be a representation of an archaeological excavation. You can browse the content without necessarily playing the game.

“This project aims to construct a virtual, immersive, multi-user, spatially oriented, exploratory, “to the inch” simulation of the Fort Berthold and Like-A-Fishhook Village site complex. The reconstruction is based on archeological data and records of the site’s excavation. The first version is text-based, with migration to a 3D graphical interface part of the project plan. Our goal is to create an active and educational space where visitors are engaged in goal-based tasks that promote exploration and problem-solving.
This is NOT intended to be a museum peice where people come to wander around and passively look at things. Visitors will be engaged in learning a) writing, or b) history, or c) anthroplogy, or d) archeology; later modules may incorporate elements of e) geology, or f) botany, or g) nutrition.”

The opening screen looks like this:

“Entrance to 32ML2

Room # 515

The pickup stops and you get out. You are on a road heading west from Fort Stevenson. You see a large, flat, grass-covered plain that extends for about 2000 feet.

To the south, you see that this terrace slopes down toward a body of water.

Far to the west, near the edge of the terrace, you see a some tiny specks that look tents, some even smaller specks that might be people, and several mounds of dirt.

To the north you see a grassy area and north of that a field.”

Now, I copied-and-pasted that description from the ‘Browse the MOO’ popup, since when I tried to create an account, there was mismatch between the domain name of my email, and the domain through which I connect to the net. Wiser minds than mine will have to explain what was going on. Anyway, the text version of this world – in which the player will conduct archaeological research – is supposed to migrate to a 3d world eventually. But having been made motion sick playing Oblivion recently, there’s something to be said for text…

One advantage of having this text-only world (which is of course similar to the text adventures that dominated computer gaming in the 1980s) is best put by the authors of the Wikipedia entry on MOOs:

“One of the most distinguishing features of a MOO is that its users can perform object oriented programming within the server, ultimately expanding and changing how the server behaves to everyone. Examples of such changes include authoring new rooms and objects, creating new generic objects for others to use, and changing the way the MOO interface operates. “

This enables the user, a la Second Life, to make the world around them (more or less)  and differentiates a MOO from a straight-forward text adventure such as you’d create using Inform.

It would be interesting to have students work through both this text simulation of an excavation, and my 3d version in Second Life, and examine the kind of (and if!) learning occurs…

2 thoughts on “Text-based virtual worlds: an archaeological MOO

  1. Fascinating blog and particularly interesting post about 2 vs 3D. It made me think about some of the non-electronic projects done in schools and museums, where an items or a shoebox full of items are used to determine what inferences can be drawn. Great introduction to archeology and much more tactile. How do you compare this to online?

  2. Thanks!

    Virtual excavation is still being developed. I’ve finally figured out how to get my different layers to behave properly – it’s a bit like being a mechanic…

    Next step will be to get a good site built, then to add in appropriate artefact links (linking to online archaeological databases), and then build up the lesson plan…

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